Monday, February 2, 2009

Bravo, Babar!

Recently I was talking with my colleague and we agreed that Babar, the elephant character of French picture books, is a curious beast. There is something a bit antiquated about these books that doesn't quite leap easily into the modern idiom. I suppose that is part of the charm. 

As a parent, I never found that my young reader nor myself particularly enjoyed the world of Babar. As we did say, the poems of AA Milne and the stories of Winnie the Pooh, to take another antique animal character at random. Bof!

Recently I have been following the blog for Babar, Harry Potter and Compagnie, an exhibition at the BNF in Paris. The exhibition highlights the picture book collection of the Bibliotheque National de France. It's quite a traditional looking show going by the video documentary you can see there. Charming, beautifully curated and designed...but perhaps a little dry for the intended audience. 

Anyway, digging a little further into the website (yes, blog and website, they are full-service library) I discovered this charming page-turn with audio. Taking the Babar book, ABC de Babar, the clever BNF'ers have digitised the pages to create a game of lexical hide and seek. Roll the mouse across the page. Explore the illustrations and discover the words. Click and you can hear the words in French. It's a kind of Gallic Animalia, only with lots of elephants. There is an English version too, but as the French would say, pour quoi?

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